October 20, 2021

Watch: Woman Describes Her Near Death From Listeria Poisoning During Pregnancy

Bernadette Jacobs was 32 weeks pregnant with her third child when she contracted Listeria poisoning from a sandwich she ate from a sandwich shop. She nearly died and so did, Kate, the baby girl she delivered.  Their story is one of three documented on video by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to watch the videos, click here.

Pregnant WomanOn a busy night, shuttling between activities and sports practices, Bernadette’s family stopped at a sandwich shop for dinner. Later that evening, the whole family became sick to their stomachs. Bernadette’s symptoms lingered, she was short of breath, she was bale to function as she normally did. She went to a doctor and was misdiagnosed. She went to a hospital and was misdiagnosed with a sinus infection. Only when a nurse she happened to know came into the room, talked with her and agreed that something was off did the ball start rolling in the right direction.

Bacterial meningitis had developed from the Listeria infection. Both she and her baby had sepsis. She needed and emergency C-section. Baby Kate was delivered, but there were problems. She was in critical condition, her survival was hour to hour. The doctors told Bernadette Kate had 15 percent chance of living and if she did, she would likely be brain dead.

Kate developed hydocephalus which is sometimes called “water on the brain.”  Doctors needed to regularly drain the fluid. Kate pushed on. After years of physical therapy four days a week and surgery on her eyes, she began walking at age 3 and half. In the video, she shows off her running skills.

Bernadette stills has issues with her pancreas, scar tissue on her lungs. “Who knew that  food poisoning could have caused it,” she said. “I had no idea that getting a take out sandwich could change my life.”

Listeria monocytogenes is the third-leading cause of food poisoning death in the U.S.  Pregnant women are at particular risk as it often causes miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and birth defects.


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